Reimer, Leafs hang on for Game 5 win
(James Reimer made 44 saves as Leafs extended the series)
May 10: Leafs 2 at Bruins 1
Forward lines: Lupul-Bozak-Frattin, van Riemsdyk-Grabovski-Kulemin, MacArthur-Kadri-Kessel, Komarov-McClement-Orr
Defence pairings: Phaneuf-Gunnarsson, Liles-O’Byrne, Franson-Gardiner
Goaltenders: Reimer (Win, 60:00 minutes played, 44 saves, 1 GA), Scrivens (0:00)
Dear James Reimer.
I was wrong.
My preseason prediction on January 19, the opening day of the shortened NHL regular season, wasn’t flattering to you. “The tandem of Ben Scrivens and the 2011-12 version of James Reimer doesn’t instill confidence, “ I said in my forecasting that had your team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, finishing tenth in the Eastern Conference.
Now in my defence, I did say 2011-12 version. I’m probably not the only skeptic that had doubts about whether you’d return to the form that you had exhibited prior to the well-documented Brian Gionta hit earlier that season.
But there you were at TD Garden on Friday night, in a scoreless goalie duel with a fellow John Ferguson draft pick, Tuukka Rask. The host team, the Boston Bruins, had at least a margin of error with a 3-1 series lead. Your team had no such insurance.
And then came the shot from defenceman Adam McQuaid from the point, deflected in the slot by Shawn Thornton a millisecond later, and onto the stick of Patrice Bergeron.
The Triple Gold (Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, World Championship) member had the game’s opening goal on his stick. Given the Leafs futility in beating Rask at that point in the game – despite outshooting the Bruins by a wide margin in the opening period – a Bergeron conversion at that point would have been devastating. Demoralizing. Series-clinching.
But today Leafs fans are celebrating your quick reflexes and right pad.
That single save provided the catalyst for your teammates; a rallying point for the Leafs to extend their season. It started with Tyler Bozak, who stripped Andrew Ference of the puck on a Boston power-play to score on a shorthanded breakaway.
Not to be outdone, Clarke MacArthur pounced on a turnover by Johnny Boychuk to give Toronto a 2-0 lead. And no, we’re not forgetting the play that won’t register on the scoresheet but was as equally important, namely the tag-up by Joffrey Lupul to keep the play onside.
Now James, you have a young, inexperienced playoff team prone to defensive lapses. So when the five skaters in front of you stopped moving their feet throughout practically the entire third period, you were left to your own devices. And you weren’t going to stop everything. Zdeno Chara may not be a Norris Trophy nominee this year, but he can still fire a puck. His blast from the point to make it a one-goal game in the third period had Leafs fans reaching for the defibrillators.
Bozak’s delay of game penalty for firing the puck over the glass only complicated matters. But I’ll save another day to vent about the dumbest rule in pro sports.
A Boychuk goal post, plus a timely last-second save off the ageless Jaromir Jagr sealed the win and ensured that the Bruins would also be making a return trip back to Toronto.
None of it would have been possible James, had it not been for that stop on Bergeron, which many are rightfully calling a career-defining moment.
On a personal observation, I compare the save to the one made in different circumstances by Martin Brodeur off Brett Hull in the 2002 Olympic gold medal game in Salt Lake City (see the 2:30 mark for reference).
Glad to have the old Reimer back.
Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca
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